The United States employment picture looks pretty discouraging.
Of the more than 20 million jobs that were lost due to shutdowns and economic restrictions, only about half of those jobs have come back. And, COVID-19 vaccines could completely alter the employment landscape for the foreseeable future.
It’s not all bad, though.
In a workplace trends report for 2021, Glassdoor said that although coronavirus put a lot of people out of work, it also “overturned outdated beliefs about remote work, sparked companies to build programs that foster emotional and cultural bonds between teams”.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the release of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency cases.
The vaccine is rolling out to U.S. states this week, and health officials recommend prioritizing frontline workers and those with regular exposure to the public to get the first batches of the vaccine.
COVID-19 has completely reshaped how we do business, and hiring in 2021 might be drastically different than in year’s past.
How COVID-19 vaccines will reshape hiring in 2021
2021 is shaping up to be a very intense year in the job market. Jobs that involve personal contact, such as valets, stylists, event coordinators, and beauty consultants have been hit especially hard and may not recover as quickly as other industries.
With American’s mixed feelings about the vaccine, U.S. employers face a tough decision about how the vaccine will affect their hiring process. An Associated Press survey found about a quarter of U.S. adults won’t get the vaccine, and another quarter said they are unsure.
Though no one can predict the future, some analysts are more positive about the 2021 jobs outlook. “If I had to bet, the longer we get into 2021, the more we’ll see a rebound in industries hardest hit by the pandemic,” career coach and best-selling author Mark Crowley told me.
“We should expect airlines, restaurants, bars, casinos, & hotels to thrive again as more people get vaccinated,” he added. The vaccine could instill enough calm to help some of the hardest-hit industries to rebound.
What types of jobs, specifically? Crowley said interior design-type jobs could see an upward trend in 2021 as the proven need for human connection continues to be a strong influencing factor throughout the industry.
“And some retailers will benefit as people have to start buying dress clothes after a full year of wearing sweats while working at home!”
Should employers require the vaccine?
The question of whether employers should require the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more urgent by the day.
In general, employment in the United States is considered “at will”, which gives the employer flexibility with working conditions and hiring policies. The exceptions are tied to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Civil Rights Act, both of which enforce certain hiring and workplace guidelines.
University of California law professor Dorit Reiss told AARP that employers could be legally required to show leniency toward staff if they have medical reasons or “sincerely held religious beliefs” that prevent them from getting the vaccination.
Reiss said such leniency might include wearing a mask at work or working from home instead of commuting into the office. “As long as it’s not too significant a barrier for the employer,” Reiss says. “If you can achieve the same level of safety as the vaccine via a mask, or remote working, you can’t fire the employee. You need to give them accommodation.”
Depending on the type of business, requiring vaccinations might be a good idea, though each company’s level of risk will be very unique according to the type of work they do.
For instance, a technology company’s COVID risk will look much different than a retail business’s.
Leif Dahleen, MD, an Anesthesiologist from Michigan who writes about money and medicine at Physician on Fire, told me that businesses with close personal contact with customers (such as fitness centers, barbershops, or grocery stores) should consider mandating the vaccine, and added that his wife and two children are ready to get the vaccinated when it’s their turn.
“There is plenty of precedent for vaccination requirements as a condition for employment,” Dahleen said. “I think that the more closely employees will be working with the general public or one another, the more strongly the employer should consider a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.”
Hiring trends for 2021
Hiring will likely look completely different in 2021. With COVID-19’s continued rampage throughout the United States and the world, employers are forced to respond the best they can to a vastly changed marketplace.
For example, many work from home positions are here to stay. Earlier in the year, Twitter announced that all employees can continue working from home, forever. Square, an online e-commerce company, announced a similar policy. Companies like REI, Uber, Microsoft, Google, Zillow, and many others now offer long-term remote work options.
But, jobs could also be in short supply.
Forbes predicts that layoffs will continue in 2021 as more businesses slowly succumb to losses in revenue due to COVID-related lockdowns and economic restrictions. “Most of the jobs lost in 2020 from the hotel, aviation, airlines, cruise, oil & gas, colleges, restaurants, Gaming, Auto parts, Leisure, and entertainment industries will not return in 2021,” Forbes said.
Other likely changes in 2021 include switching careers to one that is more conducive to remote work, a decrease in overall company loyalty, and a much longer hiring process. Forbes said job candidates should expect to have 3 to 8 interviews before seeing a job offer.
And, this is especially true in states with more severe lockdown restrictions.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 50 vaccines are currently undergoing candidate trials. Vaccines contain weakened or inactive forms of the COVID virus, and once injected into a patient, produce an “antigen” immune response in the body.
Once vaccinated, that person is more likely to be protected from similar strains of the targeted disease or virus, though the WHO points out that no single vaccine is 100% effective.
In addition, not everyone can be vaccinated.
People with pre-existing conditions such as cancer, allergies, or other ailments that weaken their immune systems may not be able to get the vaccine.